There is actually a nifty and intriguing psychological drama that continually strains to emerge from the straight-to-DVD endeavor "Carjacked." There is certainly nothing new to the plotting of this thriller as a kidnapper and his abductee play a dangerous game of cat and mouse, but as portrayed by Stephen Dorff and Maria Bello--it's generally well acted and engaging. I love these movies that showcase a battle of wits and require an ordinary citizen to rise to new heights of courage and ingenuity. So I was willing to allow a fair amount of good will toward "Carjacked." Although the screenplay never really provided much believability, I still enjoyed the character interactions that headlined the first hour of this ninety minute movie. However, once we reach the last third--any pretense of rational, logical, sensible or real behavior is thrown out the car door for an incredibly awkward action finale. It's a serious miscalculation that pretty much erased any of the positive spin I had put on the beginning. I literally groaned in disbelief as the picture went solidly downhill.
Bello plays the destitute and troubled mother of the likable Connor Hill. The movie wants to shortcut any subtle character development, so it starts with Bello attending a group therapy session. While grabbing some supplies and gas from a local convenience store (Note to producers: people in dire financial need probably wouldn't buy overpriced Bagel Bites from a convenience store. You ever shop groceries at a gas station? Not cheap.), she finds a strange man stowed in her car. Dorff is clearly evading some sort of law enforcement and persuades the family to drive him out of the area at gunpoint. The rest of the movie plays out fairly conventionally with the three getting to know one another in a relatively non-threatening way. As I said, I liked the interactions between Dorff and Hill and I thought some of the discussions between Dorff and Bello were quite well done. There are a few poorly staged escape moments, but overall--it's pretty decent. But the movie doesn't seem to know where to go.
There are some laughably painful moments that are contingent on the trio meeting up with a grade school outing (which is happening at midnight, no less, isn't that always the case?). But you know that it's all been leading up to a final showdown. After some expected violence, Bello makes it to a public restaurant and the series of phone calls that she makes (and to whom she makes them) are perhaps the most ludicrously plotted scenario I've seen this year. But it gets better (or worse depending on your vantage point) as the picture ramps up for a bloody finale. Seriously, at the one hour point--any of the small pleasures to be derived from the movie go up in smoke. Super silly, but somewhat fun in the way of bad movie mayhem, I just couldn't be convinced to go with the flow. The picture started at about 3 1/2 stars and ended at about 1 1/2 stars, for me, so I really can't recommend it. If you like Bello or Dorff, this might be worth a look--but both have done better work. KGHarris, 11/11.